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A quick guide to the Home Office priority service for UK businesses with sponsor licences

Do you need to recruit from overseas? Are you under pressure to recruit quickly because you are short-staffed or do you need a new member of staff’s expertise to work on a contract or an area of research and development? If so, immigration solicitors understand that the time period between recruitment from overseas and the sponsored employee’s start date can feel painfully slow.

If you need sponsored workers fast on skilled worker visas or on the senior or specialist worker visa then Sponsorship Licence lawyers recommend that you look at whether your best option is using the priority service operated by the Home Office for sponsors.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence lawyers  

For advice on sponsor licences and overseas recruitment call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The Home Office priority service

The Home Office priority service allows your business to ‘jump the queue’ to get a faster decision on requests for some sponsor licence related decisions. With Home Office prioritisation comes additional Home Office fees but the cost of delays in recruitment may more than justify the extra Home Office fees.

The Home Office priority change of circumstances service only allows sponsor licence holders to get priority processing of certain sponsor licence management requests.

To use the priority service your business must:

  • Have a sponsor licence with an A rating – if your sponsor licence has been downgraded to a B rating you can't use the priority service. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help you if your licence has been downgraded or your business is at risk of having its sponsor licence revoked or suspended or you are working with the Home Office on a sponsor licence action plan
  • Make your priority application by email – phone applications are not accepted
  • Pay an extra £200 Home Office fee for each priority request

Home Office priority service requests

Your business can ask the Home Office to prioritise the following types of sponsor licence requests:

  • Allocation of additional certificates of sponsorship
  • Annual certificate of sponsorship allocation
  • Amend organisation details such as the move to new business premises or an expansion to additional business premises
  • Key personnel changes including the addition of a new level 1 user or a request to change the level 1 user to another person or to replace the authorising officer or to amend their details or to replace the key contact or to amend their details

How quick is the Home Office priority service?

As the Home Office charges £200 for each priority service request your business will want to know that it is getting value for money by paying the priority service fees as the fees can mount up if you are recruiting a number of skilled worker visa candidates and need to allocate each one with a certificate of sponsorship or if you are transferring the employment of a number of existing employees from an overseas-based office to the UK branch on senior or specialist worker visas.

Priority service requests are normally processed by the Home Office in 5 days. If you don’t use the priority service, and you are unfortunate, the Home Office decision-making process can take as long as 18 weeks. If your business has to wait 18 weeks before it can allocate a certificate of sponsorship to a skilled worker visa applicant you may find that the recruit has accepted a job offer with another UK sponsoring employer who could offer an earlier start date because they decided to pay to use the Home Office priority service. Alternatively, if your existing sponsored employees need a new certificate of sponsorship in order to extend their skilled worker visas, you may not want to wait for a Home Office decision on a certificate of sponsorship allocation when the delay is going to provide angst for the employee.

Are priority service requests always accepted by the Home Office?

The Home Office priority service request process is a bit complicated and is not guaranteed. That’s because the service is only open from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday and email requests sent outside those days or times are not considered. In addition, the Home Office officials will only accept and deal with 60 priority requests each working day.

The priority request process is:

  1. Submit a request (such as a certificate of sponsorship allocation) via the online sponsor management system (SMS)
  2. Then email the Home Office using the priority service mailbox to request that your SMS application is prioritised. A form must be completed and attached to the email
  3. If the Home Office accept the priority application (as only 60 are accepted per day) you will get an email telling you to pay the £200 priority fee. You only have 72 hours to make payment – if you forget to make payment in that timescale you will lose your priority slot

It often takes more than 1 priority request application because the limit of 60 requests per day is wholly inadequate to meet the needs of sponsor licence holders.

Sponsor licence management

If you need help with sponsor licence management our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help with management services or training for your key personnel. Alternatively, if you have specific questions about a sponsor licence application or renewal or your business is concerned that their sponsor licence is at risk of suspension or revocation our business immigration lawyers can assist your company so your HR team can focus on their many other tasks.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence lawyers  

For advice on sponsor licences and overseas recruitment call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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